Honoring President Zelensky and all Ukraine people with the World Leader for Peace and Security Award
Conference “Laurel for Peace and Security in Ukraine”
Loeb House, Harvard University, April 29, 2022
Good morning and welcome, distinguished guests and speakers who have gathered today here at Harvard University, and online from around the world, for this important forum to discuss current events and potential future pathways for Ukraine.
I am pleased to announce that this year’s recipient of the Boston Global Forum’s World Leader for Peace and Security Award is Volodymyr Zelensky, President of Ukraine and all Ukrainian people. This prestigious Award is given to honor individuals who demonstrate a fierce commitment to peace and justice. In that spirit, we present the award to the Ukraine people who are courageously fighting to preserve their country’s sovereignty.
Trained as a lawyer, though he never practiced law, President Zelensky entered politics from a career in television, winning the presidency in 2019 with 73 percent of the vote. He ran on an anti-corruption platform and promised to bring a negotiated end to the conflict in eastern Ukraine resulting from the Russian takeover of the region in 2014.
He persuaded the Ukrainian parliament to enact laws stripping members of Parliament of legal immunity and banning oligarchs from contributing funds to political candidates. His efforts to get Russia to agree to a just settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine did not succeed, but he brokered a ceasefire in 2019 that sharply reduced the violence and tension in the region.
President Zelensky’s finest hour began with the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine two months ago. Using the power of the presidency and through the brilliant use of social media, he has with his words and personal courage inspired Ukrainians against all odds to resist the invasion. No leader in recent times has spoken more powerfully than when President Zelensky, upon being offered safe passage out of the country, said, “The fight is here. I need ammunition, not a ride.”
President Zelensky has been a tireless defender of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, petitioning nation after nation to provide the humanitarian and military assistance that Ukrainians need to save their country.
He has inspired Ukrainians, and people around the world, with his proud defense of his country against tyranny.
He does not come to oversee for his safe, he stands in his country. He inspires Ukrainian people and the world.
Russia claims that it invaded Ukraine to root out its “neo-Nazis.” Ironically, the man who, above all others, has stood in its way is Jewish, with close relatives who perished in the Holocaust. President Zelensky is not only Ukraine’s first Jewish president, he’s the first elected Jewish head of state and head of government of any country, save for Israel.
President Zelensky and the Ukrainian people have made momentous contributions to peace and security in the world in their opposition to the ambitions of Russia’s Putin. Their courageous stand against imperialism and extremist nationalism will give pause to authoritarian leaders in the future.
President Zelensky embodies the desire for peace and security that resides within the heart of so many, and yet would be denied by authoritarian leaders. It gives me great pleasure to be honoring him and all Ukrainian people today with the Boston Global Forum’s World Leader for Peace and Security Award. Honoring President Zelensky and Ukrainian people, BGF has conceived and coordinated today’s program with distinguished leaders, thinkers, innovators to contribute ideas and counsel for the rebuilding of Ukraine.